Monday, July 1, 2013

first impressions - FABLE RANGER

Well here we are at the beginning of the month again which means it's time for first impressions, where Dianne Salerni and I critique someone's first page on our respective blogs. Interested? If so we still have open slots for August and we'd love to crit your first. Today we have the first page of Angela Brown's MG novel, FABLE RANGER. My comments will be in purple and if you want to know more about Angela check out  Angela Brown in Pursuit of Publishness, Angela L Brown writes, Partners in ParanormYA, Neverlove and Frailties of the Bond.

Chapter One
Dreading Dots
Mom always told me to check before I answered the door. I really should have listened. Two boys stood on my porch, eyes wide with surprise.(Since this is first person, our narrator should refer to the boys by name since she knows them, or, maybe as my two best friends.) My neck and ears tingled. My freckles probably spelled e-m-b-a-r-r-a-s-s-e-d across my cheeks and nose.
“Case?” Darius tucked a basketball between his arm and side, snickering.
“In a dress?” Wynton whistled.(Since this is MG, I don't think either boy would whistle, and certainly not at a girl he considers one of the gang. I'm actually thinking they might laugh at how she's dressed since they probably only see her in pants or shorts - at least, that's the impression I get. BUT. I read very little MG so if anyone else wants to chime in...) His forehead wrinkled when he lifted his eyebrows, more confused than curious.
I was about to swear both of my so-called-best-friends to a “Don’t you dare tell anyone about this!” when mom called out from her studio. “Caesimilia Mollands! Close that door before bugs get in here.” 
“Look, guys,” Mmy hands dangled at my sides. I balled them into fists and gave Wynton and Darius my best evil eye. I think. “I have to get back so mom can finish the hem on this, ugh, thing, for next weekend.”
“That’s why we stopped by,” Darius said. “Wanted to get in some hoops since you can’t make it to the Community Sports Jam, you know, because of the wedding.”
I practically drooled on the spot, staring at the basketball. I wanted to snatch it from Darius, take off to the rec center and show them how much better I’d gotten charging the paint. A picture popped in my head: skinny girl in a fancy, strappy dress, heeled slippers click-clack-clicking down the sidewalk in a mad dash, dribbling the ball. Not cool. Not cool at all. I shook my head and sniffled. “I want to, guys. I really do, but--”
Mom called out again. “Case!”
“Maybe next time?” Darius tilted his head.
I nodded, sighing.
Both turned slowly, hesitant to leave. Darius glanced over his shoulder one last time and waved goodbye. It could’ve been a sign for me to run to the rec center with them anyway, slippered heels, dress and all. I wanted to so, so bad.
I closed the door instead, wishing I was on the other side.

Okay so not much to crit here except for those two spots, and, as stated, I am no expert, but I feel like the voice is a little old for MG, a little too mature. It also seems like not much is happening here, except an introduction to our tomboy narrator and her two friends. I wonder if the Community Sports Jam is important and if so maybe there's a way to emphasize that more so that we'll understand the significance of it to our narrator. I also get that she doesn't want to wear the dress, is probably not too keen on going to the wedding, and really loves b-ball, all of which are great tells about our narrator's character. But I do wonder if this is enough to get a middle grader to turn the page. 
Readers (especially MG readers), what do you think?   

addendum: I just read the query for this over at the QQQE  and I wonder if there's a way to give a hint of what's to come here in this first page. It doesn't even have to be a big hint, and it can be something that Case either ignores or dismisses but if a breadcrumb is dropped here then Case and the reader will later think, darn! Why didn't I pay attention to that before! But again, just my subjective opinion as someone who reads almost no MG so take it with that  in mind.


  1. I'm interested in your views and see the text in a different light when explained.

  2. I don't read it either, but agree something of importance needs to occur.

  3. I don't read MG either.

  4. Yeah. Don't read MG, either. But I liked it. Its pretty clean and smooth.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  5. I don't really find the voice too old. Kind of intrigued by the tomboy girl in a dress who'd rather be playing basketball. It's hard to know with these short snippets if there should be more hints of future conflict introduced yet. For all I know the next paragraph might have some little hook in it. Don't know if there's a budding first love romance there either, but it seems the boys were taken by seeing their friend in a dress. ;)

    1. Thanks, LG, and yes, it is hard to know given just a single - especially when the next line or page might have contain exactly what the reader will need/want.

  6. Left most of my comments on Dianne's site, but I just noticed something. I do agree with Marcy about the whistling. I've had MG age boys. They might whistle among themselves at a girl, jokingly, because otherwise it's still too awkward. But here, they'd probably snicker or grimace like "Uh...gross."

    1. thanks, Sheri, you read much more MG than I do so I appreciate your observation :)

  7. I'm going to disagree with the whistling comment, and here's why: It says to me they think she's one of the guys, and they're that comfortable in her presence. Personally, I think that's an interpretation of character we're not sufficiently educated to make as an audience, but that's what it said to me. That said, I have a middle grader who would never whistle at anyone--because he'd turn the color of a plumb. That's a personality thing.

    "when mom called out", mom should be capitalized.

    Characterization is strong in this first page, and I love it. I would like the MC's feelings on this upcoming wedding though, and a sense of tension--something that's going to have me in knots with the MC. (Not just being caught in a dress.) I love how she's uncomfortable, but I'm craving an extension of her discomfort leading to the story problem. Can we have a hint? Just a tiny hint?

    Based on this first page, would I read on? You bet! The voice guarantees that much.

  8. I was already at Dianne's, but I see something new here. When you highlight: "“Look, guys,” Mmy hands dangled at my sides," I think it would work even better with an ellipsis, or maybe an em-dash.

    The thing is that dialog should really only be followed by non capitalized narration when that narration is a dialog tag. Otherwise, the dialog should complete a sentence, and then the narration needs to be capitalized as the beginning of a new sentence.

    So, I think: "Look guys ..." My hands dangled at my sides." would probably be best.

  9. I remembered this query at the QQQE and thought the premise was awesome, BUT this first page does nothing to hook me into that story. While there is some characterization, it doesn't seem to be quite enough for the intricate story that should follow.

    Not sure what it takes to 'get' a MG reader, but I like stories that start off with a bang. give me some idea of what to expect. Some shot to the heart of the matter.

  10. Angela Brown always looks so happy in her author photo.

  11. I was going to suggest the same thing Matthew MacNish suggested. Saying "my hands dangled" is not a dialogue tag, so there shouldn't be a comma after "Look, guys..."

    As I said over on Dianne's blog, I love the voice here. There are wonderful comic possibilities. This sounds just about perfect to me, and I read A LOT of MG. I would like a hint that it's fantasy, though.

  12. Thank you, Marcy, for the great feedback and again, I can't say it enough, the comments are a treasure trove as well. Thank you, everyone!!

  13. Agree with the earlier comments, and I like your MCs name. ;)

  14. Thanks a million everyone who chimed in. As you can see your comments are extremely helpful!

  15. I don't think a boy that age would whistle at his tomboy pal, but I think he'd give her a ration of crap. Laugh. Make fun of her. Maybe say something funny about how he didn't know she was a girl. Even if he thought she looked cute, I don't think he'd say anything to give it away. And she, being a tomboy, would probably react to his taunts by punching him on the arm or making a face at him.

    Wow, that young lady's name is a real mouthful! No wonder they call her Case.

  16. I'm late to this, but I agree with Crystal about the whistling, I like it and I don't think every kid would do that, and it tells me something about him - I'm thinking he's a fun kid and has a big personality or maybe comes from an eccentric family where doing things like that don't bother him. :) This sounds like a really cute story. :)

  17. I thought there was intrigue---as it didn't state who's wedding, did it? Who's is getting married? An older sibling-a parent? How does the narrator feel about this? It had plenty of draw to it.


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